The wide-ranging review will consider, but won’t be limited to, why these injuries have occured, how the risks can be identified and mitigated, veterinary and diagnostic requirements pre and post-travel, training facilities both internationally and upon arrival in Melbourne, the track surface on race day and the conditions of the Melbourne Cup.
Veterinarians and leading trainers, such as Mick Kent, have questioned whether horses are worked too hard around the tight contours of Werribee, putting them at risk of catastrophic breakdowns. In Europe, a lot of horses are trained uphill in straight lines. One theory is that the bone structures of European horses have not had time to adapt or remodel to Australia’s tight tracks.
But Racing Victoria says it won’t be limiting its analysis to any one factor.
Racing Victoria expects the fatality report to be completed early in the New Year, while any recommendations from the broader injury review are expected to be presented to the Racing Victoria board for their consideration in the first quarter of 2021.
Among the technical and academic experts and industry participants involved in the broader review, champion trainer Chris Waller, Godolphin Australia director Vin Cox and internationally renowned veterinarian Dr David Sykes will be called upon to provide “a fresh perspective and an independent viewpoint”.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Racing Victoria said it was also working closely with the VRC “to ensure that Australia’s greatest race is also as safe as possible”.
“As we have consistently stated, no stone will be left unturned to consider why the fatality of Anthony Van Dyck occurred with a comprehensive fatality report well underway,” Racing Victoria chief executive Giles Thompson said.
“We are conscious that the Melbourne Cup is not the only race internationals run in and that is why we are looking at the wider international experience as part of the broader review so that we can reduce the rate of serious injuries among international horses in the future.
“We are committed to seeing the review completed as soon as is practicable and well in time for the 2021 spring racing carnival, however more than simply collating information and opinions from experts in Australia and around the world, it is the working group’s analysis of available data that will be critical to develop a genuine understanding of the challenges to be overcome.
“Meaningful recommendations capable of implementation to ensure any changes made as a result are enduring and have a tangible impact on equine welfare outcomes for both international and local horses will require time and expertise. I am confident we will have the best minds both in Australia and abroad to support our efforts.”
Damien Ractliffe is the Chief Racing Reporter for The Age.